Choosing Fabrication Materials, Part I: The Pros and Cons of Metals
Whether a company chooses to use metal or plastic to manufacture components is highly dependent upon a variety of factors, including: The industry in which the products are being used; what they are being used for; how they are being fabricated; the allowable budget; whether appearance is a factor; and more. These details will all be taken into consideration when making a choice between metal and plastic fabrication.
Working with Metals
There are a variety of advantages and disadvantages to consider when working with metals. Factors such as the type of project, the industry, and the purpose of the fabrication will all be considered when determining if metal fabrication is the right choice for your project. In addition, your individual metal manufacturing results will depend on which type of metals are used.
Types of Metals
There are a variety of types of metals, each of which comes in a variety of grades. Certain types of metals are better for certain manufacturing services than others. At Axenics, we most commonly work with the following types of metals:
- Stainless Steel: This type of metal is extremely popular across a wide range of industries, because of its highly corrosion-resistant properties, in addition to its ability to withstand long-term exposure to the environment.
- Copper: This soft metal is one of the more pliable metals, and therefore also responds well to bending and soldering. It is also known for its high electrical conductivity properties, and is often used to conduct heat or electricity.
- Titanium: This metal type is known for being lightweight and very strong. Because of this, it is commonly used in the aerospace industry in the development of aircraft components and also for structural design.
- Aluminum: This metal is also known for its lightweight properties, which makes it ideal for building aircraft components, in addition for other uses within the aerospace industry. It is also more affordable than titanium, is easy to weld, and is known for its highly corrosion-resistant properties as well.
- Inconel: This metal is ideal for use in extreme environments where pressure and heat are present, due to its oxidation and corrosion-resistant properties. It is often used in aerospace applications, but can also be quite useful in several other industries as well.
Advantages of Working with Metals
Metals are highly heat resistant, which means they have a higher melting point than plastics and, therefore, can maintain structural integrity under high temperatures for longer periods than plastics.
Metals also have a tendency to be stronger, tougher and more durable than plastics, which makes them better for structural purposes. Because of their properties, metals are able to be fabricated in more ways than plastics, which allows more opportunities for changing the structure and design of the materials. They also offer a more cost-effective solution to long-term projects, or projects where there is a high volume of component fabrication.
Flaws of Metals
Although purchasing the metal materials themselves may be less expensive in the long-run than working with plastics, the cost of metal tooling is expensive, and may result in higher start-up costs. Also, because of how metals are fabricated, they are more likely to require additional finishing processes after fabrication, such as painting and deburring, which can increase production time and overall costs. Lastly, metals can present design limitations when working to create a complex system requiring unique shapes or sizes of components.
If you need assistance with your next manufacturing project, Axenics can help assess your challenges and goals, and help you find the right fabrication material for your needs.